Your Skin's Microbiome: What It Is & How To Keep It Healthy
Chances are, you’ve heard that taking antibiotics too often is bad for your gut because the medication wipes out the “good” bacteria in your belly.
But, did you know that your skin reacts similarly when treated with too many antibacterial products?
It’s okay if you didn’t know, because scientists and doctors are just discovering more about the skin’s microbiome themselves.
Recent research has shed light on some key findings about our skin’s microbiome, how to keep our skin healthy, and how to avoid “over-treating” our skin concerns.
But first, what does the word “microbiome” actually mean?
By definition, “microbiome” is used to describe the microorganisms in a particular environment.
So, the skin’s microbiome simply refers to the microorganisms that live on your skin.
These microorganisms include bacteria, fungi, and viruses — around 1,000 different bacteria species and up to 80 different fungi species.
Although thinking of bacteria on your skin may sound icky, many of these organisms actually protect our skin from harmful germs and toxins.
Like any ecosystem, the skin’s delicate balance can be disturbed by external forces (like washing too often), or internal forces (like hormonal acne). When it’s imbalanced, we see problems arise.
To best maintain this balance, it’s important to understand how what we do on the outside (or on the inside) can affect skin’s microbiome, and therefore our skin.
The key to a healthy, glowing complexion is to protect your skin’s microbiome, not disturb it. That way, the good bacteria can continue strengthening your skin, and bad bacteria will stay in check. Here’s how:
Find Balance Rather Than Fighting “Bad” Bacteria
Once upon a time, the skincare industry urged us to cleanse our skin with harsh products until we saw our “problems” disappear. You may have nightmares of the ultra-strong, drying toner that you were recommended as an acne-prone teen.
Thankfully, dermatologists and experts are now stressing the importance of balanced skincare and treatments.
This all goes back to the microbiome.
Today, we know that the secret to treating oily skin isn’t by applying super-drying solutions (in fact, this often makes skin oilier).
We also know that some acne can be exacerbated by harsh products.
Similarly, the secret to radiant skin isn’t about getting rid of all the “bad” bacteria and replacing it with “good” bacteria. In fact, your body knows best. You don’t need to tell your skin what bacteria to produce (or get rid of), you simply need to give your skin the tools it needs to reach a microbiome equilibrium.
If you already take a probiotic supplement for gut health— surprise! —it’s also likely helping your skin look its best.
A diet that incorporates more probiotic-rich foods—such as kefir, miso, and kombucha—and less sugar-y and processed foods will also help your skin reach a happy equilibrium.
Most importantly, you want to select skincare that supports the microbiome rather than disturbing it.
At Robin McGraw Revelation, even our most potent products are formulated with botanical ingredients that support the skin rather than attacking it.
Our products are free of harsh ingredients that kill off bacteria, like alcohol, and full of ingredients that protect and support your skin’s ecosystem.
For example, our Foaming Joy Purifying Facial Cleanser is made with green tea oil and apple fruit extract—two ingredients that have been shown to naturally decrease bad bacteria gently.
Use Gentle Products That Don’t Overdo It
When a product makes our face feel tight and “clean” we may think it’s a sign that it’s working. Unfortunately, this feeling is actually our skin signaling that it’s been stripped of its natural oils and good bacteria — and we definitely don’t want that!
Over-cleansing can lead to an imbalanced microbiome (otherwise known as skin dysbiosis) which can lead to allergies, eczema, acne, dermatitis, and accelerated aging. In fact, a study found that kids who hand-wash dishes have a lower incidence of allergies because they’ve been exposed to the microbes on the dirty plates.
Doesn’t that seem like a good excuse to have your kids (or grandkids) pitch in on dish duty?
Unless you have seriously troublesome acne, you should only wash your face twice a day and try to avoid any anti-bacterial topical products. Just like antibiotics, these products can destroy the good bacteria along with the bad.
Similarly, products that naturally support the skin’s exfoliation are a safer and more effective route to glowing, smooth skin rather than overdoing the harsh physical exfoliation.
Look for exfoliating ingredients like willow bark extract and salicylic acid to help you shed dead, dull, or irritated skin without over-drying your face or disturbing your skin’s microbiome.
Sweat It Out
Aside from the plethora of benefits we get from exercising, your sweat can help boost your skin’s microbiome (as long as you’re eating healthy).
Exercise can also be a stress management method, and less stress results in a healthier microbiome—and therefore healthier-looking skin.
If the gym isn’t your thing, maybe a nice trip to the sauna?
Take care of your skin and its ecosystem of good (and bad) bacteria that live there for a complexion that is consistently clear. We’re proud to provide a full-line of skincare products that are age-defying and microbiome-protecting. Find a routine that works for you and your microbiome here.